Again with the Parenting

I’ve had some posts rattling around in my brain and this post is part of what I’ve been thinking about. The other part is largely based on my recent reading of Jesus Rode a Donkey. I want to write about that stuff but I’m still formulating what I want to say and be articulate about it.

The biggest part of what I’ve been thinking has to do with parenting. I love my kid(s). And I want very much to be as good a parent as I possibly can be. I want to maintain my own identity during the process of parenting and I want Stephen and me to come through parenting still a couple in our own right. I don’t want just the label of Eli’s mom and Stephen’s wife.

So as a result of trying to retain my identity I think sometimes I go overboard with the “me” time. Now in my defense, part of this “me” time is really constructive stuff. I go to Women’s Bible Study at our church and it usually involves daily homework to do. I do the newsletter at church. This has a two-fold benefit, I get to do volunteer work for my church and I get to do something I enjoy. There’s always housecleaning chores that need to be done. My favorite part of housework is doing the stuff that really bugs me and then mentally justifying the stuff I don’t want to do by saying that I need to spend time with Eli! There’s always dinner to be cooked and laundry to be washed.

And then there is the stuff that I don’t have to do during the day but really like to do sometimes. Reading blogs, sending emails, reading books, cross-stitching, making cards. These things are not bad in and of themselves but I sometimes use them as a block for not spending the time with Eli that I should. I let him watch TV or play on the computer so I can get these things done.

Is this the Mommy guilt thing? Sure it is. I recognize that I can’t spend every waking moment being attentive to him. He has to learn to do things on his own and play by himself. But sometimes I am unsure of the balance for the day and when the day is over and I haven’t read him any books or we haven’t played any games at all, I feel like a jerk. This is doubled by the fact that I’m actually more hormonal than I realize during pregnancy and some days I get super annoyed with him over really insignificant things.

All this came to a head yesterday because he was in trouble at school all day. He had to sit in timeout multiple times and just couldn’t follow directions in a timely manner. He has the same problem at home. I don’t know if it’s a 3 year old thing, a boy thing, or a Granade thing but it is supremely annoying to deal with and I don’t blame his teachers a bit for sitting him in TO while they go on to actually do the stuff they need to do with the class.

So yesterday afternoon I started wondering what could be causing this behavior. Is it the changes we’ve been making around the house? He’s not crazy about us working on house projects and moving furniture around. I’m sure to him it’s unsettling. Is it the baby? I don’t think he really fully grasps that there is another tiny human coming to live with us in our house ALL THE TIME. I have a bit of an adjustment problem with this myself, but I think for this issue it’s mostly projection on my part because he doesn’t really get the whole baby thing. Is it because I’m not consistent enough with discipline? I try really hard at this but sometimes I do let things slide because otherwise I feel like I’m on him constantly. I had that when I was a kid and frankly it’s not a whole lot of fun to live with. Or maybe we really do need to spank him. It kept me in line so maybe he’ll need it too. I feel very strongly about not spanking him because I feel that it’s incredibly hard to teach your kids “Don’t react with violence. But hey, when you misbehave, it’s ok for me to whale on you!” Is it potty training? We’ve been pretty spotty with it. Is the inconsistency of the training causing problems elsewhere? I don’t know. I think he’s really getting a kick out of saying, “No!” to going to the potty right now. I’m trying not to push because I feel like it is close and I’d rather wait for him to be mentally ready to do it than fight with him over it. This morning I said we could go to Chuck E Cheeses when he goes to the potty 10 times in the next two weeks. This might be just the right motivation, we’ll see.

So of course the final answer I come up with is it’s my fault. I’m not spending enough quality time with him. Is this true? I don’t know. I don’t really have a good concept of what other stay-at-home moms do day to day. I remember one time reading Dooce and her saying that if motherhood were a job you could get fired from, she’d probably be seeing a pink slip any day. These days I identify with that.

Stephen was quick to point out last night that he’s 3 years old. Three. And all this is the stuff we didn’t have during the so-called terrible twos is coming out now. He also pointed out that when he doesn’t follow directions, he’s not being defiant in the sense of “No, I’m not gonna do that and you’re not gonna make me!” It’s more along the lines of he’s really involved with something else and can’t tear himself away to follow the directions or he just doesn’t hear you when you are speaking to him (this I know is a Granade trait, Stephen’s mom has said that many times Stephen couldn’t hear her unless she was physically touching him on the arm or shoulder and then had to wait for him to shift his attention enough for him to look her in the eyes). I have worked to combat this particular problem by telling Eli to look me in the eyes, which is ever so funny when he says to me, “Mom, look in my eyes!” accompanied by one hand made into a V pointing at his eyes with his eyebrows raised.

My concern is that he will become unmanageable. Timeout is already iffy. He goes to his couch mad enough but in moments he’s talking and/or singing to himself. Stephen and I decided last night that we are going to start doing the full three minutes on the couch for time outs. I think that taking away his computer time is also good punishment because he loves computer time more than “Little Einsteins.” When he got in trouble yesterday he missed his after school playground time, his computer time and he had to call Dad and tell him that he’d been in trouble at school. Does he really understand these consequences? I don’t know that either but sooner or later he’ll get the message, “In trouble at school = More trouble at home than it’s worth.” Or at least I hope that’s the message he’s getting.

(Hey, he just got up from his nap and when reminded about the chart, he was willing to go try the potty! He didn’t go, but he at least went and attempted and that’s more progress than we’ve had lately.)

So all that to say, I don’t know. Parenting is hard. I want to do it well. I’m pregnant so I don’t know how much my hormones interfere with my perception of the job I’m doing. I don’t know if I’m actually doing a good or a bad job. (That’s totally not a fishing expedition for all of you to say I’m doing a great job (or a bad one!), by the way.) I want to like my kid(s) when they get to be adults. I’m not sure why I feel like what I do day to day here has much of an impact on that. I’m thinking when they don’t live in my house anymore, my “like” for them may increase exponentially. I just want them to grow up and go out on their own and be productive people who live fulfilled lives and since sometimes I struggle with that maybe again, it’s all projection. Or hopefully, you can just mark this up to me being hormonal. I find I like that answer the best.

9 thoughts on “Again with the Parenting

  1. The two most important points about disciplining children is first you and Stephen agree on what manner of discipline you will use and second, you stay consistent all the time. Is this hard, you bet. As to spanking, you know I am not in favor of spanking at all. It achieves nothing.

  2. I think spanking can be valuable, but that Eli is possibly a bit too young for it to have a good/useful effect. I remember one time when I was about six, I was due for a spanking, but I kicked and wriggled my way out of my dad’s grip and made a run for it, and I got away because I figure he didn’t think it would be productive to chase me down. So of course the next time I got a spanking, I kicked and wriggled again. No dice; he held on a lot better that time. That incident taught me “You can’t run from consequences” more than anything else I can remember happening to me.

  3. My best guess would be that Eli is simply trying to redefine boundaries. Kids are always pushing to see how far they can go with whatever adult is in charge. He can probably sense that things are changing but just doesn’t know how to properly express his anxiety or frustration about them. Up until this point, (from what I’ve seen) he’s been a pretty laid back kid. He’s never had a problem listening to you guys or to his Nanny. He may just be trying to assert some independence and test his boundries. He’ll probably back off once he sees the boundries and consequences are clear and unmoving.

    He may also be getting into that “it’s not cool to listen to my parents or usual caregivers” at this point. I know he still responds well to me, but then again I don’t see him as much as his teachers or you guys do.

    I would try not to worry about it too much. His brain is just going through a growth spurt 🙂 You guys are wonderful parents and I really have a hard time believing that you don’t spend enough time with him.

    Sorry for the book or if I seem overly preachy on anything. (I’m just writing it down so I can remember it when Emily hits 3 😉 Bottom line: just go with your gut and you’ll figure out the balance you need.

  4. I think that sometimes spanking DOES work; that depends on the child. You clearly have to figure out what works for each given child (in the words of May’s favorite psychiatrist, the child’s currency–which may change over time). Also, I would urge you to think of the difference between punishment and rehabilitation: the 1st has no learning attached, the 2nd does. You obviously want him to learn something and to modify his behavior. Also, I would urge you to remember that children don’t compare in the broadest sense. They don’t know how others live, and what they have is normal for them. It’s not until much later that we figure out about our own childhoods–particularly when we’re thinking of parenting children of our own. With rare exceptions, I think children adapt to the amount of time parents give them, for example, as long as there is clearly identifiable time that just with them (this comes from an only child, so don’t bank it!). Lastly, I’d urge you to remember that as articulate as Eli is, he’s still only 3; he hasn’t the word power for some of what he wants to say, and can only act out what he feels. And yes, I’ll confess that the ability to focus intensely and shut out the rest of the world’s definitely a Granade trait!

  5. I’ve heard a phrase … the terrible twos lead to the horrible threes.

    Maybe Eli is just continuing to push boundaries…?

  6. Forgive me if this sounds silly, but really, I don’t see how you could possibly NOT be spending enough time with Eli. You’re a stay-at-home mom, which is pretty much defined by spending time w/ your kids.

    I do understand the struggle between “this is normal” and “we want to keep him civilized,” esp with school! So much childhood behavior is “normal,” but still damn hard to live with–and what’s a phase to one kid can turn into a lifelong struggle with another. It’s such an utter tossup, and believe me, I worry about this kind of thing too, even for my hypthetical kid!

  7. Oh, and re: spanking: I was spanked and feel it did me no harm. Frankly, I was a mouthy kid sometimes, and probably needed a couple swats to keep me in line. Aaron, OTOH, was apparently all sweetness and light as a kid (some things don’t change, apparently!) and never got a spanking. Again with the “every kid is different” thing. Who’s to say?

  8. Thanks to all of you for your positive comments and to those who’ve sent me emails as well. We had a great day yesterday and he did MUCH better at school today so you know, maybe it was just the wind messing him up the other day.

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